Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Plea For Liberty by Robert G Ingersoll

Evanthia Reboutsika -We will meet again

Robert Green Ingersoll on Liberty

I know not what discoveries, what inventions, what thoughts may leap from the brain of the world. I know not what garments of glory may be woven by the years to come. I cannot dream of the victories to be won upon the fields of thought; but I do know, that coming from the infinite sea of the future, there will never touch this "bank and shoal of time" a richer gift, a rarer blessing than liberty for man, for woman, and for child.

I would not wish to live in a world where I could not express my honest opinions. Men who deny to others the right of speech are not fit to live with honest men.

A man has a right to work with his hands, to plow the earth, to sow the seed, and that man has a right to reap the harvest. If we have not that right, then all are slaves except those who take these rights from their fellow-men.

If you have the right to work with your hands and to gather the harvest for yourself and your children, have you not a right to cultivate your brain? Have you not the right to read, to observe, to investigate — and when you have so read and so investigated, have you not the right to reap that field?

And what is it to reap that field? It is simply to express what you have ascertained — simply to give your thoughts to your fellow-men.

If there is one subject in this world worthy of being discussed, worthy of being understood, it is the question of intellectual liberty. Without that, we are simply painted clay; without that, we are poor, miserable serfs and slaves. For thousands of years people have been trying to force other people to think their way. Did they succeed? No. Will they succeed? No. Why? Because brute force is not an argument.

Liberty cannot be sacrificed for the sake of anything.Yet some people would destroy the sun to prevent the growth of weeds. Liberty sustains the same relation to all the virtues that the sun does to life.

Standing in the presence of the Unknown, all have the same right to think, and all are equally interested in the great questions of origin and destiny. All I claim, all I plead for, is liberty of thought and expression.

That is all. I do not pretend to tell what is absolutely true, but what I think is true. I do not pretend to tell all the truth. I do not claim that I have floated level with the heights of thought, or that I have descended to the very depths of things. I simply claim that what ideas I have, I have a right to express; and that any man who denies that right to me is an intellectual thief and robber.

I am a believer in liberty.To give to every other human being every right that I claim for myself, and I grant to every other human being, not the right — because it is his right — but instead of granting I declare that it is his right, to attack every doctrine that I maintain, to answer every argument that I may urge .

I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous - if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men.

They say to me, do you know more than all the theologians dead? Being a perfectly modest man I say I think I do. Now we have come to the conclusion that every man has a right to think.

Would God give a bird wings and make it a crime to fly? Would he give me brains and make it a crime to think? Any God that would damn one of his children for the expression of his honest thought wouldn't make a decent thief.

Most men are followers, and implicitly rely upon the judgment of others. They mistake solemnity for wisdom, and regard a grave countenance as the title page and Preface to a most learned volume.

So they are easily imposed upon by forms, strange garments, and solemn ceremonies. And when the teaching of parents, the customs of neighbors, and the general tongue approve and justify a belief or creed, no matter how absurd, it is hard even for the strongest to hold the citadel of his soul. In each country, in defence of each religion, the same arguments would be urged.

Why should man be afraid to think, and why should he fear to express his thoughts? Is it possible that an infinite Deity is unwilling that a man should investigate the phenomena by which he is surrounded?

Is it possible that a god delights in threatening and terrifying men? What glory, what honor and renown a god must win on such a field! The ocean raving at a drop; a star envious of a candle; the sun jealous of a fire-fly.

You cannot change the conclusion of the brain by torture; nor by social ostracism. But I will tell you what you can do by these, and what you have done.

You can make hypocrites by the million. You can make a man say that he has changed his mind; but he remains of the same opinion still. Put fetters all over him; crush his feet in iron boots; stretch him to the last gasp upon the holy rack; burn him, if you please, but his ashes will be of the same opinion still.

The greatest men the world has produced have known but little. They had a few facts, mingled with mistakes without number. In some departments they towered above their fellows, while in others they fell below the common level of mankind.

Volumes might be written upon the follies of great men. A full rounded man — a man of sterling sense and natural logic — is just as rare as a great painter, poet, or sculptor. If you tell your friend that he is not a painter, that he has no genius for poetry, he will probably admit the truth of what you say, without feeling that he has been insulted in the least. But if you tell him that he is not a logician, that he has but little idea of the value of a fact, that he has no real conception of what evidence is, and that he never had an original thought in his life, he will cut your acquaintance.

I am the inferior of any man whose rights I trample under foot. Men are not superior by reason of the accidents of race or color. They are superior who have the best heart — the best brain.

The superior man is the providence of the inferior. He is eyes for the blind, strength for the weak, and a shield for the defenseless. He stands erect by bending above the fallen. He rises by lifting others.

The life and death of Christ are worth the example, the moral force, the heroism of benevolence.

Whoever has an opinion of his own, and honestly expresses it, will be guilty of heresy and blasphemy.They have not thought and suffered and died in vain.They have extend the hospitalities of the brain to a new thought.

What is real blasphemy?
Blasphemy is what an old mistake says of
a newly discovered truth.

Blasphemy is what a withered last year's leaf
says to a this year's bud.

Blasphemy is the bulwark of religious prejudice.
Blasphemy is the breastplate of the heartless.

No man can blaspheme a book. No man can commit blasphemy
by telling his honest thought. No man can blaspheme a God.
The Infinite cannot be blasphemed.

To live on the unpaid labor of other men
that is blasphemy.

To enslave your fellow-man, to put chains
upon his body — that is blasphemy.

To enslave the minds of men, to put manacles
upon the brain,padlocks upon the lips —that is blasphemy.

To deny what you believe to be true, to admit to be true
what you believe to be a lie — that is blasphemy.

To strike the weak and unprotected, in order that you
may gain the applause of the ignorant and superstitious
mob — that is blasphemy.

To persecute the intelligent few, at the command of
the ignorant many — that is blasphemy.

To forge chains, to build dungeons, for your honest
fellow-men — that is blasphemy.
To violate your conscience — that is blasphemy.

The jury that gives an unjust verdict, and the judge
who pronounces an unjust sentence, are blasphemers.
The man who bows to public opinion against his better
judgment and against his honest conviction, is a blasphemer.

And now the question arises, what is worship? Who is a worshiper?
Good, honest, faithful work, is worship. The man who ploughs the fields and fells the forests; the man who works in mines, the man who battles with the winds and waves out on the wide sea, controlling the commerce of the world; these men are worshipers. The man who goes into the forest, leading his wife by the hand, who builds him a cabin, who makes a home in the wilderness, who helps to people and civilize and cultivate a continent, is a worshiper.

Whoever increases the sum of human joy, is a worshiper. He who adds to the sum of human misery, is a blasphemer.

No statute can ever convince me, that there is any infinite Being in this universe who hates an honest man. It is impossible to satisfy me that there is any God, or can be any God, who holds in abhorrence a soul that has the courage to express his thought. Neither can the whole world convince me that any man should be punished, either in this world or in the next, for being candid with his fellow-men.

If you send men to the penitentiary for speaking their thoughts, for endeavoring to enlighten their fellows, then the penitentiary will become a place of honor, and the victim will step from it — not stained, not disgraced, but clad in robes of glory.

Let us take one more step.

What is holy, what is sacred? I reply that human happiness is holy, human rights are holy. The body and soul of man — these are sacred.

What we want is the truth, and does any one suppose that all of the truth is confined in one book — that the mysteries of the whole world are explained by one volume? All that is — all that conveys information to man — all that has been produced by the past — all that now exists — should be considered by an intelligent man. All the known truths of this world — all the philosophy, all the poems, all the pictures, all the statues, all the entrancing music — the prattle of babes, the lullaby of mothers, the words of honest men, the trumpet calls to duty — all these make up the bible of the world — everything that is noble and true and free, you will find in this great book.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful words of wisdom, to learn from and hopefully live ones' life....Learning never gets old, thanks to your inspirations...thanks so much..for my weekend message of hope..!! Betty


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